Edinburgh Council's acting leader warns Scottish Government 'cutting vital services' only option amid further funding restrictions
The council’s acting leader has demanded the Capital is given a fairer funding deal by the Scottish Government – warning that “further savings can only now realistically be made by cutting vital services”.
Labour group leader and the city council’s depute leader, has used his six weeks at the temporary helm of the authority, to write to finance secretary Derek Mackay, asking for more cash for the squeezed city – or health and social care improvements as well as a commitment to build 20,000 affordable homes could be derailed.
Cllr Day says he is temporarily taking over from council leader, Cllr Adam McVey, while he is on adoption leave and has used the opportunity to press the Scottish Government for financial help.
Cllr Day said: “Edinburgh is a growing and successful city and that should be recognised by the Scottish Government.
“It’s the job of the political leaders of this council to make the case for Edinburgh and that’s what I have done.”
The city council was forced to cut £33m from this year’s budget when the spending programme was agreed in February and officials expect a similar picture next year.
In the letter, Cllr Day told Mr Mackay that the city council has made more than £300m of savings since 2012. But he warns that there is “a limit to the level of efficiency savings that can be delivered without impacting on frontline services”.
He added: “It is clear to me, therefore, that the council’s failure to meet the Scottish Government’s three per cent annual target in this area (efficiency savings) in 2018/19 is not due to any inaction on our part but the reality that we have reached a tipping point, whereby further savings can realistically can now only be made by cutting vital services.”
Cllr Day has also warned Holyrood’s finance secretary that “an adequate supply of social housing is crucial to the city and Scotland’s continuing success”. Bu he highlights that the SNP-Labour coalition’s commitment to build 20,000 affordable homes has a £60m funding deficit in the 60-year strategy.
He said: “This funding shortfall is concentrated in the early years of the plan and there is thus a real danger that the council’s vital role in increasing the supply of affordable housing at a crucial time is constrained.”
Cllr Day admits that failures in health and social care services, which the council has shared responsibility for providing for NHS Lothian are “well documented” – adding that a “package of mitigating measures, both financial and non-financial are required”.
During his brief spell, as he claims, at the helm of the authority, Cllr Day has also written to education secretary John Swinney, asking for more cash to rebuild four high schools in the Capital.
Referring to the letter, Cllr Day said: “Edinburgh is particularly disadvantaged in the schools funding formula because around 25 per cent of kids go to private schools and the funding is swayed by that.
“We are the capital city and we should have more money to build these vital schools.”
Scottish Government funding was agreed for Currie High School to be rebuilt – but the council also wants to provide new buildings for Trinity, Liberton, Wester Hailes and Balerno.
In his letter, Cllr Day adds: “I note there will be a further phase of funding announced within 12 months and I would be keen to discuss with you any opportunities that exist for the council and the government to work in partnership and secure the much-needed investment in these communities as soon as possible.”